"I'm frustrated [about] getting hit too much. I'm frustrated with that part of it. At the end of the day, you want to win.”
Russell Wilson’s words to reporters Tuesday may have signaled the beginning of the end of the lifecycle a team enters after they’ve been defeated at the hands of Tom Brady. Wilson made sure to mix his words with laughter and other masking emotions as he made his way through the interview circuit this week but make no mistake: Wilson is unhappy with the organizational philosophy of the Seahawks. As Brandon Marshall put it this week, “he’s trying to move on in a classy way.” The Russell Wilson Doomsday Clock is officially ticking in Seattle.
This started way back on February 1, 2015 when the presumed dynastic successors to the 2000s Patriots, the then-defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, were defeated at the hands of Tom Brady and Malcolm Butler (and according to Matt Patricia, Matt Patricia). As Kam Chancellor wrote in The Players' Tribune this week, the Seahawks never recovered from that loss.
There are some eerie similarities between the early careers of Patrick Mahomes and of Russell Wilson: both were on teams that went to the playoffs their first years as starters, both won the Super Bowl in their second seasons as starters, and both lost the Super Bowl to Tom Brady in their third years as starters. Is the presumed Chiefs dynasty of the 2020s about to face the same fate as the Seahawks since that loss?
With the benefit of hindsight, most teams that make it deep in the playoffs or win the Super Bowl are deemed as having drafted phenomenally for years. This was certainly the case with the Seahawks of the early 2010s, the 49ers in the Lynch-Shanahan era, and the last four years of the Chiefs and Buccaneers. However, history indicates a team like the Chiefs will not continue to hit on draft picks at the clip they have the past half-decade. The NFL draft is quite frankly a crap shoot and even though it may seem like certain teams always draft better than others, there is virtually no correlation between how well a team drafts from year to year.
In the era of the rookie wage scale, which caps how much teams can pay rookies at different positions based on where they were selected in the draft, the case can be made that no quarterback has had the success that was expected of them once they advanced past their rookie contract. This of course depends on how we define “success”; is Cam Newton going to the Wild Card round with the Panthers in 2017 a “success”? Is Andrew Luck’s divisional round loss to the Chiefs in 2018 a “success”? Then sure, there have been QBs who have had relative success. The goal is winning a Super Bowl, but we can at least define a successful season as making it the final four...
The Seahawks haven’t been to the NFC Championship Game since they gave Wilson his first big pay day. Since then, Seattle both couldn’t afford to pay their homegrown talents or free agents, and their draft hit rate has been subpar since 2012. This is the gamble teams make in the rookie wage scale era--is our QB so good that they can offset the deficiencies that are to come with our roster once we pay them? The apparent problem here is not being able to know QB performs with a deficient roster until they’re actually surrounded by a deficient roster. This is why the 2016 QB class is being shown the door in LA and Philly respectively; Jared Goff and Carson Wentz’ contract extensions haven’t even kicked in yet and they’re already hindering their offenses.
At least the Rams have supplemented their transition to a highly paid quarterback with continuing to draft and develop talent. The Seahawks have pretty much only hit on DK Metcalf. Despite offensive line constantly being discussed as an issue, they’ve drafted three offensive lineman total since 2017: JaMarco Jones didn’t make the team, Phil Haynes has been injured his entire tenure, while guard Damien Lewis from this past draft may actually be a decent player.
The next QBs to get a crack at this big money part of this cycle are Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes stands out from the pack and specifically from Russell Wilson for one reason: coaching. It may not matter how well the Chiefs draft in the coming years--in fact it’s debatable they’ve even drafted well due to the plug-and-play nature of an offense designed by Andy Reid with a QB like Mahomes.
The difference in coaching philosophy is what sets the Brady-induced crumbling of the Seahawks apart from what’s to come from the Chiefs. For years Pete Carroll’s offensive philosophy (yes, head coaches who are not the offensive coordinator have say in the offense. Ask Mike Zimmer.) has been the genesis of Russell Wilson having to either come from behind or save the team from a comeback. Wilson wins 90% of games that his team is leading at halftime (via Sharp Football Stats), yet Pete Carroll is still carrying the “establish the run” banner into the 2020s.
Seattle even tried “letting Russ Cook” for half of this season, but Pete Carroll inevitably reverted to his old ways and boom, first round exit to a QB with a metal rod in his throwing thumb.
Andy Reid won’t do any of that. Unless the clock is involved, Reid is the antithesis of Carroll. He runs an efficient offensive operation in Kansas City to go along with a quarterback who defies what humans should be able to do in the sport of football. The Chiefs race to lead at halftime. They’re built to get leads and keep them.
Luckily for Chiefs fans, the team may have just learned their lesson about the offensive line: invest in it or your prized possession will get hurt and maybe even try to softly shoot his way out of town in six years. If there’s any QB and coach combo who can break the cycle of paying a QB top dollar and simultaneously not allowing Tom Everlasting to stop a potential dynasty where it stands, it’s Mahomes and Reid.